My energetic first son is almost 4 now, and he’s been attending soccer classes with Little Kickers since he was about 2. He was very energetic when he started — and even more so now.
At the time, I just hoped that running around for 30 minutes would wear him out enough that he might pass out and sleep for a few hours as soon as we got home.
Most of the time that wasn’t the case, but looking back at how far he has come, I now realise that I’ve provided something so much more valuable than a quick moment of parental respite.
Let’s face it, a 2-year-old doesn’t always have the best coordination, and I know the teachers don’t expect too much out of a toddler. Attending the classes early on, you just have to let them do things at their own ability level and pace.
But what I have noticed recently is that the practice is starting to pay off. My son is kicking the football around like a pro — darting from one side of the ball to the next, stopping the ball and swivelling it with his feet.
I’m amazed at how he can control the ball. Again, he’s only 4. And all this is from attending just a single 30-minute class per week. I don’t think he has a gift, but I think all that practice is making it seem like it.
Some days though, he’s just not feeling it. He will cry at the drop of a hat and find the noise and class space overwhelming. There have been days when we’ve just had to go home early because he’s fallen over and can’t shake it off. That’s fine, it’s not the World Cup — there’s always next week.
But all those moments where he has been pushed out of his comfort zone have helped him connect with his body and mind. It has given him an understanding of himself and his body, which I believe has helped build his confidence.
As he gets older and can see more of his own abilities, it’ll only allow him to feel more self-aware, both mentally and physically, and that will help his confidence to grow more and more.
Interacting with others is an important skill and I think it should be nurtured from as early as possible. In my son’s soccer classes he is now learning how to pass and play in a team setting, with goals at either end of a little indoor court — almost like a real game of soccer.
He’s learning to pass to his friends. The teacher makes sure that all of the kids know each other’s names, teaching them to share the ball around for a greater purpose, and to get the ball in the goal as a team, not just keep the ball for yourself. Which leads me to…
Learning to lose
I’m not sure if this is the case for all 4-year-olds, but my son hates losing. Unless he is playing Mario Kart on the Switch (which he loves playing so much that he’s quite happy to lose at every time), every other situation can entice the crazy I-hate-losing monster within.
So teaching him to pass the ball to his teammates knowing that he might not be the one that will get the goal (which counts as losing in his mind) is a great lesson to learn.
And it’s not just him that has had the “but I didn’t get the ball in the goal” tantrum, it’s also the other little kids in his class. Learning to share, that he may not get the outcome he would like, and realising that it’s not the end of the world, is a hard lesson, but so worthwhile.
Making new friends
The best thing that has come out of taking my son to Littler Kickers every Thursday for 2 years is that we’ve met another family with a son the same age, and they have just had a second son, so we can be families of 2 boys together.
They are such wonderful people, who live close by and have slotted into our friendship group with ease. Not only can my boy have a cool friend to hang out with, but I have new friends too, in his Mum and Dad.
Taking your kid to an activity like a sports class can be a chance for you to interact with some adults who are in the same tired, broken spot as you — and you never know who you might meet!
I’m no soccer mum, and to be honest I’ve never been a big fan of the sport, but I feel so grateful that I took the time to take him to these classes from such an early age.
Not only has he gained so much out of it individually, but we’ve gained as a whole family. Now his little brother attends the classes too (mostly getting in the way considering he is only 18 months old) but he is watching and learning as well.
Finding a sports class near you
If you would like to start taking your child to a sports class and live in Melbourne, head over to www.thingsforkids.com.au, pop in your postcode and see what’s available in your area.